By Meghna Yelluru
A 33-year-old terror accused has filed a complaint against the superintendent of Arthur Road jail for allegedly ordering him to cut his beard. Abdul Latif alias Guddu, accused of plotting strikes at ONGC headquarters and two markets in the city in 2010, has demanded Rs 10 lakh as compensation and strict action, including suspension, to be taken against the jail authority for “hurting his religious sentiments”.
In his complaint submitted to a sessions court on September 19, Latif alleged that on September 18, during a “weekly round”, superintendent Ahir Rao questioned him regarding his beard.
According to the complaint, Latif responded by saying, “main Musalmaan hoon, aur mere dharam ke hisaab se rakha hoon. (I am a Muslim, and have kept a beard in accordance with my religion)”
“Jail main koi Musalmaan nahin rehta. Daadhi rakhe toh aur sadega jail me. Main kuch nahin jaanta, mujhe yeh daadi kati hui chahiye (Nobody is a Muslim in jail. If you keep a beard, you’ll rot longer in jail. I want this beard cut),” Rao is alleged to have instructed, according to the complaint copy.
“Yeh mere dharam ke khilaaf hai (This is against my religion),” Latif objected.
In his complaint, Latif alleged that Rao had directed the jailor to ensure that his orders were complied with. “On the same day, the complainant prepared this application addressed to the superintendent to roll back the said unconstitutional order, which was handed over to Jailor Ade, but he refused to accept it and insisted that Latif cut his beard. Ade further turned down to give any acknowledgment on the application (sic),” the complaint read.
Latif, through his complaint, prayed for the suspension of Rao for “illegal, unconstitutional, inhumane, anti-religious remarks.” He further urged Additional Director General (Prison) Meera Borwankar to initiate a departmental inquiry against the superintendent. “Pass the order and direct the superintendent to say sorry to applicant and give undertaking in writing,” the complainant said.
A copy of the complaint was also sent to Gulzar Azmi, member of the State Minorities Commission and the Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra, an NGO that provides legal aid to over 400 Muslims booked under terror charges. Shahid Nadeem Ansari, an advocate with the Jamiat
Legal Cell told the Newsline, “We will take this issue forward and write to the state home minister and DIG prison to take action against the culprit and initiate departmental inquiry against him.”
“The accused has had a beard for a long time, and not only him, others facing serious charges of terrorism also sport beards. A month ago, Rao stopped 7/11 blast accused Abdul Waheed din Mohammed from carrying a Quran inside the jail,” Shahid alleged.
Borwankar said, “I have not received a copy of the complaint yet, but this cannot be true. Jail authorities will never force anybody to shave or prohibit someone from carrying a Quran inside the jail. We respect all religions.”
Latif, however, claims in his complaint that he could produce witnesses in court, if required.
“The court has taken cognisance of the complaint and has directed the jail authorities to file a reply in court on September 24,” said the counsel for Latif.